If you are in need of some escapism from the cold and dark winter days but can't afford to hop on a plane, try making my warming Chicken Tagine with Almonds served with my Jewelled Couscous. Perfect for a mid-week meal or special enough to make for friends this recipe will transport you to warmer climates and charm you with a taste of the unfamiliar.
Chicken Tagine with Almonds
Since I have never actually been to Morocco I can’t guarantee you that this recipe is 100% authentic, however what I can guarantee is that it tastes fantastic. For me, when I think of Moroccan cooking I think of bright, vibrant dishes full of exotic spices and flavours. This tagine (which is the name of the stew as well as the dish they cook it in) is a deliciously aromatic stew enhanced with the mellow sweetness of honey and the refreshing zing of lemon zest. The turmeric turns it a brilliant golden colour, guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.
Like my Friday Night Chicken Curry recipe, this dish has a lot of sauce. That's the way I love it because then I can drench my couscous in it soaking up all of the rich, aromatic goodness, however if you would prefer a thicker sauce reduce the amount of chicken stock to 350ml.
2 tbsp mild olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Ras el Hanout* (if available)
Pinch of saffron strands
500ml chicken stock (see above)
2 tbsp honey
4 thick pieces of lemon peel (use a peeler)
60g/ 2oz ground almonds
4 chicken breasts, skinless & boneless
Salt & Pepper
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Small scattering of toasted flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
In a large pan or casserole dish, heat the oil over a medium heat then sauté the onion for roughly 8 minutes until it is starting to soften but not coloured. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Turn the heat down slightly then add the cinnamon sticks, turmeric, cumin, ginger and coriander and ras el hanout (if using). Stir well so that all the spices are mixed thoroughly with the onion and garlic. This will also make sure that your stew doesn’t have a raw spice taste at the end. Add the stock, saffron, honey and lemon zest and ground almonds. Cut each chicken breast into 3 or 4 large pieces then add to the casserole along with some salt and pepper. Cover with a tight fitting lid and put in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
When ready to serve sprinkle over the chopped parsley and flaked almonds and serve with the jewelled couscous.
*Ras el Hanout is a wonderfully fragrant Moroccan blend of spices that includes a huge selection of spices including my favourite ingredient - rose petals. If you can track it down it really is worth the effort as I think it really makes this Tagine. In the UK it's easy enough to find (most supermarkets carry the Bart spice range), however in Canada I find it harder to source. If you can't find it in your local supermarket or spice shop try online at The Silk Road Spice Merchant.
I absolutely love couscous especially cause it takes no time at all to make - this is literally fast food at it's best! This is perfect with the Chicken & Almond Tagine, however it is also perfect for a quick and easy lunch.
If you can't get pomegranates just miss them out however it won't have the wonderful 'jewelled' look that makes it so uplifting in the dark winter months. For some extra colour you could add some finely chopped red pepper or for a bit of heat, a chopped red chilli. I find most varieties of couscous vary in the ratio of couscous to stock however, he quantities below work for me with the brand I use. If in doubt though you ideally want a good cm or so of stock above the couscous when you first cover it for perfect fluffy couscous.
Serves 4 (with left-overs for lunch!)
Enough hot chicken stock to just cover the couscous (make up 500ml/ 2 cups and you will have plenty)
2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Juice & zest of ½ lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Put the couscous in a medium sized bowl then cover with the chicken stock. Stir quickly with a fork then cover tightly with cling film and leave for 5 minutes. Once the couscous has absorbed all the stock, fluff and separate the grains with a fork, then add the coriander, parsley, mint, pomegranate seeds and lemon zest. Gently mix together then add the lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir well then taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve at once.